Biking and the Theory of the Derive

Last night I went on my second ride on my new bike, and since I didn’t have much time, I decided to experiment with what I’ve started to call a “random ride.” In this case, I started out toward Watertown and once I got toward Arsenal Street, I began to make navigational decisions on a whim, with as a little deliberation as possible. This method led me on a 45-minute ride through the winding back streets of Watertown and Brighton in which I tried to stay off the main roads and follow the shifting flow of street patterns and traffic.

In light of my reading in pyschogeography lately, I realize now that the term “derive” is better than “random” as a way to describe this kind of ride. Social Fiction describes the theory of the dérive this way:

ONE OF THE BASIC situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.”

On future rides, I will start tracking my routes with a gps device and then plot the waypoints on a map that I can put online. Stay tuned….


2 responses to “Biking and the Theory of the Derive”

  1.  Avatar

    Feng Shui types might add "areas of geopathic stress" to the list above–attracting and repelling depending on many factors. I’m not sure how I feel about this but I know the tower in Mount Auburn is a powerful "destination" that can’t be explained merely by its height, position, or design…

  2.  Avatar

    I’m not very familiar with Feng Shui, but the concepts might be interesting to look into as ways people try to describe the complex, unconscious ways places act upon us. Thanks.